We are less than two months away from the start of the 2017 college football season. First set of games is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 26th. Though most schools won’t start until the following week.
If you haven’t started preparing, now is the time to get started. Before you know it, opening week is going to be here. In fact, Week 1 Odds are already out and open for wagering.
This is also a great time to get your future wagers in. If you can afford to set some money aside for a few months, NCAAF win totals can provide a great opportunity to build your bankroll.
2017 College Football Predictions: Power 5 and Group of 5 Conferences
Last year provided plenty of excitement and surprises. That was certainly the case in year three of the College Football Playoffs. We had a rematch in the title game with Alabama facing off against Clemson. In 2015, the Crimson Tide managed to hold on for a 45-40 victory.
It looked like Alabama was on their way to defending their title, as they had a 10-point lead going to the 4th. Clemson rallied and won 35-31 on a last second TD pass from Deshaun Watson to Hunter Renfrow.
It was the Tigers first championship since 1981. Ending a 35-year drought. The loss prevented Alabama from winning their fifth title under Nick Saban. It was also the first time that Saban lost a championship game in his time in Tuscaloosa.
Clemson became the second ACC school to win the title in the last four years. FSU was the most recent in 2013, when they defeated Auburn in the final BCS Championship Game.
The Atlantic Coast Conference also produced the best player in the country. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson came out of no where to win the Heisman Trophy. Jackson didn’t just win the award, he ran away with it.
Enough about last year, it’s time to turn our attention to this upcoming season. Here’s a quick look at who I have winning each conference. I’ve also included my playoff projections, Power Rankings (Top 25 + more) and future odds.
*Click on link for individual conference previews*
Can anyone take down Alabama? That’s the biggest question that faces this conference in 2017. The Crimson Tide have represented the West and won the title in each of the last 3 years. It’s the longest stretch of dominance since Florida won 4 straight titles from ’93 to ’96.
It won’t be easy. Even after losing 10 players to the NFL (4 1st Rd Picks), Alabama is one of, if not, the most talented teams in the country. The 11 starters back is on par with recent seasons and that includes a ton of talent on offense, including QB Jalen Hurts. My biggest concern is how the offense responds to not having Lane Kiffin calling the plays. Say what you want about Kiffin as a head coach, he’s an outstanding offensive mind.
My biggest threat to the Crimson Tide in the West would have to be Auburn. The only thing holding the Tigers back the past couple years has been QB play. They add in a good one in Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. I also don’t think you can discount Florida or Georgia out of the SEC. In fact, Florida is another team that if they get just above-average QB play they could win it all.
SEC West – Alabama (8-0, 12-0)
SEC East – Florida (7-1, 11-1)
Champion – Alabama
I really like the direction the Big Ten is headed in. The conference has two legit powers in Ohio State and Michigan. Both led by one of the elite coaches in the country. Urban Meyer with the Buckeyes and Jim Harbaugh with the Wolverines. Almost everyone had these two picked to win the title last year. Neither of them made the title game. Penn State came out of nowhere to win the East and defeated Wisconsin in the championship game.
It doesn’t look like the Nittany Lions will be going away anytime soon. The Badgers are still a threat in the West, but they clearly play in the weaker division. The big reason I’m high on the Big 10 going forward is all the great hires at head coach and not just at the top programs. Even Purdue, who has 9 wins the last 4 years, was able to land a big name in WKU’s Jeff Brohm.
Big 10 West – Ohio State (9-0, 12-0)
Big 10 East – Wisconsin (7-2, 10-2)
Champion – Ohio State
With only four spots and five Power 5 programs, at least one conference is getting left out each year. Unfortunately for the Big 12, they have been the odd man out. The league has had just one represenitive in the playoffs the first three years it’s been in play. That was Oklahoma in 2015 as the No. 4 seed and they lost in the semifinals by 20 to Clemson (17-37).
In an attempt to help the Big 12 get some more votes for the playoffs, the league will be installing a championship game this year. The top two teams in the standings will rematch each other to declare an outright champion.
The Sooners have certainly been in the spotlight this offseason. Oklahoma is the overwhelming favorite to win the league title with Baker Mayfield back at QB. However, they will have to try to accomplish that goal without head coach Bob Stoops. He stepped down after spring practices.
I have Oklahoma finishing in a 3-way tie for 1st place, but losing out on the tiebreaker. I believe it will be Texas taking advantage and making their long awaited return to the top under new head coach Tom Herman.
Big 12 Title Game: Texas (7-2, 9-3) vs Oklahoma State (7-2, 10-2)
There’s a lot of question marks surrounding a number of the top teams. None bigger than how the defending champs replace star quarterback Deshaun Watson. It’s not the only loss for the Tigers, who also lost talented wide out Mike Williams and a 1,000-yard rusher in Wayne Gallman (17 TDs). Dabo Swinney has done a tremendous job replace talent in years past. Clemson has won 10 or more in each of the last 6 years.
The only other team to win a conference title the last six years is Florida State. The Seminoles are favorite to win among media publications and it wouldn’t come as a surprise. However, they aren’t my pick to win, as I have Louisville as the best team in the ACC this year. The Cardinals are getting no credit, despite being a team that started 9-1 with the only loss a one possession defeat at Clemson. Not to mention they return Jackson (Heisman winner) at quarterback.
As far as the Coastal is concerned, I think there’s two legit teams at the top in Miami and Virginia Tech. Both programs are on the rise right now and each are loaded with talent. The big question for both is how they replace their starting QB. If either hits a home run on their new signal caller, they could challenge for the ACC title.
ACC Atlantic – Louisville (7-1, 11-1)
ACC Coastal – Miami (6-2, 10-2)
Champion – Louisville
There’s a lot of excitement in the Pac-12 this season. The conference has the potential to field a number of the best teams in the country. The two everyone is talking about is Washington and USC.
To no surprise, it didn’t take long for head coach Chris Petersen to take this program to the next level. Even after a 15-12 start in his first two years in Seattle, Petersen owns a 119-26 record over 11 seasons as a head coach. Doesn’t figure to be long for everyone to realize this guy is in that same class of Saban, Meyer and Harbaugh.
With one of the Pac-12’s best QB returning in Jake Browning, Washington is my pick to win the North. With that said, don’t sleep on the rest of this division. Stanford and Washington State are legit threats and I believe Oregon will show signs of life in the first year under Willie Taggart.
In the South, USC is the team to beat according to most experts and I agree. The Trojans have a special talent at QB in Sam Darnold (Heisman favorite). He wasn’t the starter to open last year, but was when the team won their final 9 games. UCLA figures to be much better and Utah always seems to be in the mix. Last year’s big surprise in Colorado is the wild card. However, I think the Buffaloes are in store for a big step back.
Pac-12 North – Washington (8-1, 11-1)
Pac-12 South – USC (8-1, 11-1)
Champion – USC
While it still has a ways to go to be on the same level as the Power 5 programs, the AAC is clearly the best of the Group of 5. The top teams in this conference have proven they can hang with the big boys. You also can’t help but notice the talent on the field.
The big question going into 2017 is how the American Athletic handles change. Out of the 12 teams who make up the league, 5 of them will have a new head coach. Most of them are being forced into change, as their previous hires left for more money an opportunity with a Power 5 program. It’s been a theme of late, as 6 other schools have a guy in charge that has been there 2 or less years.
I see two clear-cut teams that are ahead of the pack in 2017. That’s USF and Houston. The Bulls return 16 starters, one of the best players in the country in QB Quinton Flowers. They also did a nice job replacing Taggart with Charlie Strong. The Cougars also lost their head coach and are in good shape. They have 15 starters back, plus the addition of Texas A&M transfer at QB in Kyle Allen.
AAC West – Houston (7-1, 11-1)
AAC East – South Florida (7-1, 11-1)
Champion – South Florida
There are currently 4 teams that aren’t associated with any conference. That’s Notre Dame, BYU, Army and Massachusetts. The best of this group last year was BYU, who finished 9-4 in year one under Kalani Sitake. Army also had one of their best seasons in the last 20 years. They went 8-5 and snapped a 14-game losing streak to rival Navy.
The best team on paper to start last year was the Irish, but they ended up going just 4-8. An awful 1-7 record in games that were decided by 8 points or less was a big reason why.
This year I believe the best Independent team will be Notre Dame. The Irish are loaded with talent. If sophomore signal caller Brandon Wimbush excels, they could be in the playoff mix. I have a hard time seeing it given they play a brutal schedule.
BYU figures to end up with the best record in terms of wins. Not only are they talented, but the schedule is much easier. They also benefit from playing 13 instead of 12 regular season games.
Best Record – BYU (10-3)
Best Team – Notre Dame (9-3)
The Mountain West is another Group of 5 conference that has produced some top level teams in years past. Most of those coming in the form of Boise State during the Petersen era. Last year it was San Diego State, who finished in the Top 25.
Those are the two clear-cut favorites to win their respective divisions and face off in the MWC title game. That’s how I see it playing out, but it’s far from a sure thing.
Don’t sleep on Craig Bohl and Wyoming. Junior quarterback Josh Allen is a legit NFL prospect who some have going No. 1 in next year’s draft. Keep in mind Bohl is the guy responsible for turning North Dakota State into an FCS power.
Two other teams worth keeping an eye on are Colorado State and Hawaii. The Rams figure to have the most explosive offense in the MWC and a much improved defense. Hawaii has 14 starters back from a team that won 7-games in the first year under Nick Rolovich. Note that the Rainbow Warriors had won 11 games the previous 4 years combined.
MWC Mountain – Boise State (7-1, 9-3)
MWC West– San Diego State (6-2, 8-4)
Champion – Boise State
Conference USA doesn’t have the depth to compare to the likes of the American and Mountain West. The top teams in this league are legit. The problem is the bottom programs are really bad, so the resumes don’t look as good. With that said, a number of teams in this conference have shown they can compete against the best the Power 5 has to offer.
Western Kentucky has been the top dog the last two years and figure to be a power again in 2017. The concern with the Hilltoppers is the impact of losing head coach Jeff Brohm. What’s impressive is that even with only 10 starters back, this is still considered the most talented team in C-USA.
I have WKU picked to win the East, but it’s not going to be easy. This division got a heck of lot harder this year. For starters, Marshall is primed to bounce back after 3-9 campaign. You also can’t sleep on FAU and FIU, who both had big time hires at head coach.
There’s not the same parity in the West, where LA Tech figures to have zero problem finishing on top. Skip Holtz has done a nice job here. After a 4-8 record in his first year, he’s got the Bulldogs to 9 wins each of the last 3 seasons. My biggest threat to Louisiana Tech in the West is UTSA.
C-USA East – Western Kentucky (6-2, 8-4)
C-USA West – Louisiana Tech (7-1, 9-3)
Champion – Louisiana Tech
Chances are you kept close tabs of one MAC team last year. Western Michigan and their “Row the Boat” swagger under head coach P.J. Fleck got a lot of media time. It didn’t hurt the Broncos went a perfect 13-0 in route to securing the MAC title and a New Year’s Six bowl invitation.
As often happens with these small programs, success typically comes at a price. Fleck was hired by Minnesota. On top of that the Broncos lost starting QB and a NFL Top 10 pick at WR in Corey Davis.
There’s some nice talent left over for new head coach Tim Lester, but I don’t see this team being able to come close to last year’s success. With that said, they still figure to be in the race for the top spot in the West. Though I think the best team on this side of the conference is Toledo. Note that last year was the first time in 6 seasons that Northern Illinois didn’t represent the West in the title game.
There’s not as many quality teams in the East, but there’s two at the top that figure to be as good as the MAC has to offer. Those being Ohio and Miami (OH). The Bobcats won the division last year and have 13 starters back. The Redhawks return 17 starters from a team that went 6-7 after winning 5 games the previous 3 seasons.
MAC West – Toledo (6-2, 9-3)
MAC East – Ohio (6-2, 8-3)
Champion – Toledo
Most don’t give the Sun Belt a whole lot of attention, but I think it’s critical to stay informed on this league. Just about every team schedules at least one Power 5 program and many play more than one. Understanding which of the Sun Belt teams can compete with the top teams is crucial to handicapping the first month of the season.
Last year there were 4 different teams that won 8 or more games. Both Troy and Appalachian State reached double-digits with 10. Keep in mind Troy is the team that went to Clemson and lost 24-30 as a 35-point dog. They finished T-3rd in the league at 6-2.
The Trojans are my pick to win the conference title this year. In fact, I have them running the table with a perfect 8-0 mark in league play. Other teams with a legit chance are Appalachian State and Arkansas State. After these top 3 there’s quite a drop off in terms of talent.
Sun Belt Champion – Troy (8-0, 10-2)
Playoff Projections & Team Power Rankings (Top 25 + More)
(1) Ohio State over (4) Louisville
(2) Alabama over (3) USC
(1) Ohio State over (2) Alabama
2017 Power Rankings
|1||Ohio State (13-0)|
|8||Oklahoma St (10-3)|
|10||South Florida (12-1)|
|15||Notre Dame (9-3)|
|17||Penn St (9-3)|
|20||Washington St (9-3)|
|24||Florida St (8-4)|
|25||Boise St (10-3)|
|26||Virginia Tech (9-3)|
|27||Kansas St (9-3)|
Individual & Team NCAA Football Future Betting Odds
*Click link for full list of odds*
Top 10: Odds to Make Playoffs
|Auburn, Clemson, Ohio St||+600|
Top 10: Heisman Odds
|Player (Position, School)||Odds|
|Sam Darnold (QB, USC)||+525|
|Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)||+850|
|Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)||+950|
|JT Barrett (QB, Ohio St)||+1250|
|Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn St)||+1500|
|Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)||+1500|
|Deondre Francois (QB, Florida St)||+2200|
|Jake Browning (QB, Washington)||+2200|
|Jalen Hurts (QB, Alabama)||+2200|
|Bo Scarbrough (RB, Alabama)||+2200|